Autumn in Budapest means we have some rainy weather ahead of us. Certain readers may groan at the prospect, but there are plenty of ways to stay entertained during the rain, and we shouldn’t let a few drops put a damper on our day. And for the pluviophiles out there, our video of Budapest in the rain will be a delicious treat to sooth any frazzled nerves.
Do you love the rain? Hate it? Savour the smell of wet earth, or grumble for blue skies? Whatever your preference, there is plenty to do in the city that will keep everyone happy.
Explore the museums
When the skies turn grey, the open doors of Budapest’s many museums feel especially inviting. Maybe you fancy exploring local heritage, in which case the Budapest History Museum includes Roman relics, Ottoman treasures, medieval tapestries and other finds stretching from prehistory to the Communist era. For something perhaps more gripping, maybe the House of Terror would entice you, commemorating victims of the Communist régime. Its location at Number 60 Andrássy út was once the headquarters of the feared Secret Police. Located in District IX, the Holocaust Memorial Centre is another reminder of dark days. Following the history of the Holocaust in Hungary, the museum includes graphic descriptions of the reality of suffering, as well as displaying personal artefacts of victims. If you’d rather some lighter fare, the Pinball Museum is great for ticking off the bucket list, or check out the Róth Miksa Museum, just off Keleti station, which offers a fascinating look into the life and works of the stained-glass artist. These suggestions merely scratch the surface, as there is also the Zwack Unicum Museum for lovers of the herbal digéstif, the Agricultural Museum in Városliget and the Museum of Fine Arts, whose Roman Hall has recently reopened.
Have the zoo to yourself
For those willing to don their rain boots and brave the weather, you’ll find you have the Budapest Zoo & Botanical Gardens nearly to yourselves. This is a trick my own mother used to pull for us, calling it “rain days”. Peeking out from under our umbrellas, we watched the gorillas lounge under covered perches, alligators blink at us dispassionately and penguins dive into the water, with hardly a neighbour in our elbow space. Since some of the zoo’s residents live indoors anyway, there’s always the opportunity to pop inside and warm up a bit, before continuing on your walk.
Go underground at the Pál-völgyi Cave
If your idea of enjoying the rain means getting as far away from it as possible, then why not head underground? The Buda hills are riddled with interesting and intricate cave systems, and delving into the Pál-völgyi Cave is a treat for enthusiasts. Here, interconnected caverns reveal geological oddities and fascinating subterranean formations. English-language tours are offered in three of the caves, and two are completely accessible for all ages. The third cave is still undeveloped, so amateur spelunkers can crawl, climb and slide their way around.
Enjoy a spa day
Slip into one of the thermal pools of Budapest’s numerous spas and sigh contentedly while the rain falls steadily outside. Is this not luxury? Each spa in Budapest offers its own unique trademarks – the Gellért is known for its stunning Art Nouveau architecture, while Széchenyi’s steaming outside pools are popular year-round and the brilliant rooftop pool of Rudas gives us a panoramic view of the city (and there’s a bar!). Not to mention the massages and other spa treatments on hand – dreary, drizzly days are the perfect opportunity to pamper.
Visit a garden
Another suggestion for the pluviophiles – if you just can’t resist the smell of wet earth, and the peaceful sound of dripping leaves, then head to one of Budapest’s many lush gardens to enjoy the full rainy day experience. Take for instance the ELTE Botanical Gardens, which date back to the 1700s and have over 12,000 different plant species to look at. There is also a shop on-site, which sells specimens growing inside the park, sometimes unavailable anywhere else in the city. Or check out a Japanese garden, such as the one on Margaret Island, or the Zugló Japanese Gardens, the first of their kind created in Hungary. The rippling pools are only enhanced by the plic-plic of rain droplets.
Hungary’s Neo-Gothic Parliament building is a commanding piece of the waterfront skyline, a feast for the eyes inside and out. Access is restricted to the public while official business is under way, but when the building is free, visitors can enjoy regular tours. The 1,000-year-old Crown of St Stephen – the country’s most cherished relic – is on proud display beneath the Parliament dome. Other highlights include the striking stained-glass windows of renowned artist Miksa Róth and incredible, ornate structural detail by the building’s masterful architect, Imre Steindl. When the weather outside is drab, the inside is always ready to take your breath away.